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Reflective Functioning, Affect Consciousness, and Mindfulness: Are These Different Functions?
Linköping University, Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
Centre for Clinical Research Sörmland, Uppsala University, Sweden.
Linköping University, Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning, Psychology. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
Linköping University, Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
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2014 (English)In: Psychoanalytic psychology, ISSN 0736-9735, E-ISSN 1939-1331, Vol. 31, no 1, 26-40 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Aims: Concepts of mentalization, affect consciousness, and mindfulness have been increasingly emphasized as crucial in psychotherapy of diverse orientations. Different measures have been developed that purportedly measure these concepts, but little is known about their interrelationships. We discuss conceptual overlaps and distinctions between these three concepts, and present results from a preliminary empirical study comparing their measures.

Methods: To study the relationships between these concepts, data from a group of psychotherapy students (N = 46) was used. Mentalization operationalized as Reflective Functioning (RF) was rated on transcripts of a brief version of the Adult Attachment Interview, the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ) was used to measure mindfulness, and the Affect Consciousness Interview-Self/Other version (ACI-S/O) to measure affect consciousness.

Results: There was a small but statistically significant relationship between RF and FFMQ, but surprisingly no relationship between AC-S/O and RF or FFMQ. A post-hoc analysis showed a relationship between consciousness of others’ affects and a reduced version of the RF scale.

Discussion: Results confirm that mentalization and mindfulness share some  common variance, but contrary to expectations affect consciousness seems to be more different from RF and mindfulness than expected. A possible explanation for the counterintuitive finding of no relationship between RF and affect consciousness is that affect consciousness measures a mature capacity for mentalized affectivity, while RF (especially at the high end) is largely a buffer against trauma and adversity. Low or absent findings for the FFMQ are explained more in terms of different methods variance.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
American Psychological Association , 2014. Vol. 31, no 1, 26-40 p.
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-82029DOI: 10.1037/a0034049ISI: 000331876500003OAI: diva2:557550
Available from: 2012-09-28 Created: 2012-09-28 Last updated: 2014-03-28Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. The Capacity for Self-Observation in Psychotherapy
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The Capacity for Self-Observation in Psychotherapy
2012 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Alternative title[sv]
Förmågan till Självobservation i Psykoterapi
Abstract [en]

The phenomena of self-awareness and self-observation are thought by many to be uniquely human qualities, and questions about how they develop have engaged philosophers and spiritual thinkers throughout history. More recently these issues have come to interest psychologists, psychotherapists, and researchers of diverse clinical psychology orientations as well. This dissertation explored conceptual issues and empirical measurement methods related to self-awareness and self-observation capacities. The four studies approached this from different angles: Study I used mainly qualitative methods to study post-treatment processes related to continuing clinical improvement after termination of long-term psychotherapeutic treatments. The main finding was that self-analysis seemed to be related to continued improvement after ending of therapy, but contrary to our hypothesis there was no difference between psychotherapy and the more intensive psychoanalysis in this regard. Study II tested the measurement of mindfulness by self report in a sample of experienced Buddhist meditators. The findings confirmed relationships between mindfulness and psychological well-being, but raised doubt about the instruments’ sensitivity to change. Study III compared different methods for measuring theoretically related concepts of self-observation: mindfulness, mentalization, and affect consciousness. This study showed surprisingly little common variance between affect consciousness and mentalization/mindfulness. Finally, the results of Study IV showed that in patients diagnosed with clinical depression, mentalization about depressive symptoms predicted aspects of the initial psychotherapy process better than mentalization about attachment. Taken together, these studies show the complexity of the phenomenon of self-observation and the corresponding complexity of research on it. The relationships between variables related to self-observation, their measurements, and their relationships to the psychotherapy process seem more complex than would be expected from current theories. A model for types of self-observation in the process of change in psychotherapy is tentatively proposed.

Abstract [sv]

Förmågan till självmedvetande och självobservation brukar sägas vara unik för människan, och frågor om hur den uppstår och utvecklas har engagerat filosofer och andliga tänkare genom historien. Under de senaste årtiondena har detta även kommit att intressera psykologer, psykoterapeuter och forskare inom olika kliniska psykologiinriktningar. I denna avhandling utforskades konceptuella frågor och empiriska mätmetoder relaterade till självobservationsförmåga. De fyra studierna tog sig an detta från olika utgångspunkter: I Studie I användes främst kvalitativ metod för att undersöka processer relaterade till fortsatt klinisk förbättring efter avslutning av längre psykoterapeutisk behandling. Beskrivningar av självanalys var relaterade till fortsatt förbättring efter avslutad terapi, men i kontrast till vår hypotes syntes ingen skillnad mellan psykoterapi och den mer intensiva psykoanalysen ur denna aspekt. I Studie II prövades mätning av medveten närvaro (mindfulness) genom självrapport på ett urval erfarna Buddhistiska meditatörer. Resultaten bekräftade samband mellan medveten närvaro och psykologiskt välmående, men visade på osäkerhet kring instrumentens känslighet för förändring. I Studie III jämfördes olika metoder för mätning av teoretiskt relaterade självobservationsbegrepp: medveten närvaro, mentalisering och affektmedvetenhet. Resultaten visade på förvånansvärt liten gemensam varians mellan affektmedvetenhet och mentalisering/medveten närvaro. Slutligen visade resultaten i Studie IV att hos patienter diagnostiserade med klinisk depression predicerade mentalisering om depressiva symptom aspekter av den initiala psykoterapiprocessen bättre än det vanliga måttet på mentalisering utifrån anknytningsintervju. Sammantaget visar dessa studier på komplexiteten i fenomenet självobservationsförmåga och dess utforskande. Relationerna mellan variabler relaterade till självobservation, mätning av dem och samband med psykoterapiprocessen tycks mer komplexa än förväntat utifrån nuvarande teorier. En tentativ modell för samband mellan typer av självobservation i den psykoterapeutiska förändringsprocessen presenteras.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2012. 56 p.
Linköping Studies in Arts and Science, ISSN 0282-9800 ; 560Linköping Studies in Behavioural Science, ISSN 1654-2029 ; 168
Self-Observation, Mentalization, Mindfulness, Affect Consciousness, Psychotherapy, Självobservationsförmåga, Mentalisering, Medveten närvaro, Affektmedvetenhet, Psykoterapi
National Category
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-82033 (URN)978-91-7519-797-5 (ISBN)
Public defence
2012-11-09, I:101, Hus I, Campus Valla, Linköpings universitet, Linköping, 13:00 (English)
Available from: 2012-09-28 Created: 2012-09-28 Last updated: 2012-10-04Bibliographically approved

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Falkenström, FredrikMöller, ClaraLech, BörjeSandell, RolfHolmqvist, Rolf
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